Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Press

Simmering scandal or unseasonable silliness?

Glenn links to posts by Ron Rosenbaum and Mickey Kaus about a rumored "potentially devastating sexual scandal involving a leading Presidential candidate." [Rosenbaum]  Supposedly the Los Angeles Times has the story, but is sitting on it.

Rosenbaum tackles it as a question of journalistic ethics:

Why are well wired media elite keeping silent about it? Because they think we can’t handle the truth? Because they think it’s substantively irrelevant? What standards of judgment are they using? Are they afraid that to print it will bring on opprobrium. Are they afraid not printing it will bring on opprobrium? Or both?
And what about timing? They, meaning the DC elite media, must know if it comes out before the parties select their primary winners and eventual nominees, voters would have the ability to decide how important they felt it to the narrative of the candidate in question. Aren’t they, in delaying and not letting the pieces fall where they potentially may, not refusing to act but acting in a different way—taking it upon themselves to decide the Presidential election by their silence?

Kaus simply indulges in this speculation:
My vestigial Limbaugh gland tells me it must involve a Democrat, or else the Times would have found a reason to print it.

Both, by the way, take pains to declare that whatever-it-is isn't the John Edwards affair allegation (broken by the National Enquirer earlier this month, and pretty much ignored by everyone since).

I have ceased viewing the national press as neutral in political matters. Taking that perspective, I find myself disagreeing with both commentators. If a Democrat is involved, the press wants to minimize damage. If a Republican, the opposite.  That is what is driving the decision-making, not airy concerns about relevance or appropriateness.

So... If the "scandal" involves one of the Republican frontrunners, it would most damage Republican prospects if revealed after that person had been nominated, ideally close enough to the election that the party wouldn't have time to react. I envision that scenario as Rathergate II, but this time with real, rather than fabricated, information.

If, on the other hand, the candidate is a Democrat, then to minimize damage it really ought to come out now, so that everyone would have forgotten it (or the press would have a chance to shove it down the memory hole) by election time.

Unless, possibly, the Democrat involved is Hillary. If the press sees whatever-it-is as potentially strong enough to derail her run, they might attempt to keep things quiet, at least until after the election. If it's a Democrat, then IMO whatever-it-is must involve her, because the other Democratic candidates don't count unless she goes away.

The problem with either of my scenarios is that people can't keep their mouths shut. Rosenbaum says he got his info from
...a well-connected media person, who told me flatly, unequivocally that “everyone knows” The LA Times was sitting on a story, all wrapped up and ready to go...
Perhaps all that "everyone knows" at this point is that the Times has a story. But even if that's the case, the rumors of its mere existance will encourage others to start digging. So soon others will know the details, if they don't know already. And I can't believe there's sufficient unanimity in the D.C. press corps to keep whatever-it-is suppressed. Somebody will drop a hint to Drudge, or Kos, or HuffPo, and away we'll go.

Unless there's really no story, and what's happening is that 2007's silly season has been extended for a couple of months. Probably due to global warming.

UPDATE 071031 17:52:  Speculation continues at Ace of Spades, where "Jack M." adds:
In DC media circles, the phrase "everybody knows about it" is often code. Political Operatives with sketchy info try to get a credulous reporter to disseminate their dirt by enhancing it's credibility with those 4 little words....
Rosenbaum is a reputable guy. A negative story broken by him would carry credibilty. Hence, he's a perfect target of opportunity for a guy seeking to give a "scandal" legitimacy.

Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 02:19:45 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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